The world portrayed in Come Out of the Woods is bleak. Parents are absent, children deal drugs, cops are corrupt. There’s no trace of Tarantino’s humour or Coppola’s romance here, yet in the talented hands of director Jonny Blair, it’s a world that captivates. His NFTS grad film is a heartbreaking tale fuelled by rage and self-destruction which, thanks to the exhilarating performances, will have you perched on the edge of your seat for the next 30 minutes.
Three brothers living in rural Scotland try to save up enough money to escape to Australia, by dealing drugs and avoiding the local corrupt police officer. The plan changes, however, when the youngest brother discovers a girl’s body on their land. Come Out of the Woods is a gritty family thriller, bursting with tension which will get under your skin.
The inspiration for Come Out of the Woods came to Jonny Blair after he watched Australian film Animal Kingdom and became, in his words “mildly obsessed” with it. “I was really inspired by darkness and the theme of brotherhood. I thought it would be cool to do something of a similar feel in Scotland. Fundamentally though, what Come Out of the Woods had to do was one, be suspenseful and two, entertain. I’d like to think we achieved that in abundance” – Blair recalls. He has certainly achieved what he set out to do and so much more.
Come Out of the Woods treads a well-worn path of tormented lives and dysfunctional siblings, pulled to pieces by the departure of a father figure, but what ties the film together are the central performances by some of the best young talent in the UK. Nico Mirallegro, as Michael, astonishes, balancing longing with guilt and later desperation, and Joe Dempsie (Ally) and Ben Smith (Sam) embody the tough yet vulnerable characters of the brothers to perfection.
To get the best out of his stellar cast, Blair decided to have the three actors live together in the same house, where the film was shot, in order to shape their relationship authentically. “Nico, Joe and Ben slept on location, in their character’s bedrooms. We deliberately placed Nico’s bedroom on one side of the house and Joe and Ben’s on the other. I remember Nico came up to me after the first night saying he felt really left out, because he could hear Joe and Ben talking through the night. For me that was perfect as the hierarchy was being constructed and a precedent was set that ultimately carried through into their portrayal of the characters” – the director explains.
What is fascinating is how much the three central characters get under your skin. With questionable morals and a knack for self-destruction, the siblings are not likeable, but their enormous, poignant capacity for love, which has never been received is undeniably compelling. They have no idea how to express or manage affection and it’s their desperate longing for escape that makes the situation so explosive. Regardless of their shortfalls, all we wish for them is to escape and find joy. Needless to say, they find neither.
Blair is currently working on a couple of TV series and a number of feature film scripts, one of which is a feature length version of Come Out of the Woods and we cannot wait to see it!